Reminder on Etiquette when approaching a Toll Plaza and Other Things

It’s the holiday season, and traffic is heavier than usual on the interstates and toll roads of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. Unfortunately, I don’t like to say this but I have seen a lack of etiquette out there on the roads especially during the holiday season.

For instance, I took a side trip to Tarpon Springs recently when I was trying to turn left from southbound US 19 onto eastbound Keystone Road, which is undergoing a transformation from two lanes to four lanes from US 19 to East Lake Road (CR 611). Unfortunately, the protected left turn signal only let just a few cars through and the lane closures on Keystone Road was causing left turning traffic to block the northbound lanes of extremely busy US 19. As the left turn signal changed from green to red I had no choice but to stop and wait for the next signal to avoid being stranded out in the intersection as well as avoid a ticket for running a red light.

Unfortunately, a gentleman driving a SUV behind me did not like my careful operation of my vehicle in accordance with Chapter 316 of the Florida Statutes. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw him making threatening gestures at me, including yelling at me apparently telling me to break the law so that he can get to the CVS Pharmacy on the southeast corner of US 19 and Keystone Road. Luckily, the man in the SUV behind me did not do anything more serious as there was a Tarpon Springs Police officer on eastbound Keystone Road waiting to cross US 19.

I cannot understand why the man in the SUV behind me had to be in a hurry for. Was it because he had to pick up a prescription at the CVS Pharmacy in a hurry? (Hey, CVS Pharmacy has late hours). Was it also that the man in the SUV was in a hurry to get Christmas shopping done? These questions I won’t know the answer to.

OK. Getting back on topic here.

Let’s say you are at a toll plaza and you enter the SunPass only lane by mistake. Or, you enter the Selmon Crosstown Expressway and you do not have a SunPass. What do you do?

First and foremost, do NOT stop or turn around – not only it is illegal, it is dangerous! Simply drive through the SunPass lane – your license plate will be captured by way of a photo image and you will be sent a bill for the toll(s) owed. Instructions on how to pay for the missed toll(s) are on the bill that you would receive.

In fact, here’s the perfect stocking stuffer you can get – a SunPass transponder and account for your vehicle. With a SunPass, you can pay reduced toll rates for those with SunPass transponders than those paying with cash. Besides, more and more toll plazas are being converted from the traditional method of toll collection to all electronic toll collection. The SunPass web site has more details including where you can go to pick up your own SunPass transponder as well as how to set up your SunPass account.

Now here are some more road etiquette tips for you motorists out there:

That conversation or business deal on that cell phone or smartphone can wait until you arrive at your destination safely. Same thing goes for texting too.

If you have to be at a place at a certain time (such as getting to your flight at Tampa International Airport or getting to work on time), please leave early. That way, you can arrive at your destination with even a few more minutes to spare!

Take it easy in those crowded mall and shopping center parking lots. In fact, why don’t you drop off your party at the front entrance so that you can park the car and then you can join your party inside at a predetermined location after you are settled in. Besides, everyone will be happy campers.

Handicap parking spaces are only for those with a handicap parking placard and are handicapped. If you happen to have someone’s handicap parking placard and you are not handicapped, don’t abuse the privilege.

Don’t speed or tailgate your fellow motorists out there on our highways in an attempt to be somewhere on time. Not only it’s against the law and you can get an expensive traffic ticket, you are also throwing money away on gasoline too. Besides, the money you save by not speeding or tailgating you can use it on Christmas shopping!

And one more thing: PLEASE DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE! Especially when New Year’s Eve rolls around, it’s much better to stay overnight – whether it may be a friend’s house or a hotel room such as the Hilton Downtown St. Petersburg (even if the rooms are pricey for New Year’s Eve) – than spend the New Year in the booking area of the Pinellas or Hillsborough County Jails. Besides, it costs about $20,000 when you factor in fines, court costs, attorney’s fees, etc. for a DUI – and we’re talking first offense DUI here.

So, enjoy the holiday season and beyond in 2012.

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